One Burning Question: Will Jawun Evans and Phil Forte Get Enough Help Inside?

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 28th, 2016

After several years of underperformance, Oklahoma State finally parted ways with Travis Ford and made the splashiest move of the offseason in hiring Brad Underwood. A former Kansas State assistant, Underwood arrives in Stillwater with a shiny 89-14 record over three seasons at Stephen F. Austin, including an upset of his mentor Bob Huggins’ program, West Virginia, in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. The returns of Phil Forte and Jawun Evans should provide Underwood with an excellent base to his first season. The sharpshooting Forte is an underrated Big 12 veteran who owns a career 38.9 percent three-point shooting clip and is an automatic 86.6 percent at the free throw line. Evans’ corresponding emergence as an NBA prospect on the strength of his advanced vision and handle gives the Cowboys a lift they badly need. The question this team faces, though, is a familiar one despite a new head coach at the helm: Will the Cowboys’ frontcourt be effective enough to keep opposing defenses from overloading on their two potent guards?

Phil Forte's return gives the Cowboys an instant boost. (Mic Smith/AP)

Phil Forte’s return gives the Cowboys an instant boost. (Mic Smith/AP)

The Cowboys under Ford were never known for stout frontcourts, and last season may have been their low point, especially on the offensive end. Oklahoma State shot a league-worst 55.2 percent at the rim, per, relying on free throws and, without Forte, shaky three-point shooting to carry the load. It went about as poorly as you’d imagine, as the team finished last in the conference in offensive efficiency. Fortunately, Underwood could be the right guy to reverse the Pokes’ fortunes. His last two Lumberjack teams ranked 15th and sixth nationally in converting twos and were especially effective at the rim, shooting 67.7 percent on close looks last season and 63.3 percent the year before. The defenses that Underwood will see in the Big 12 will be more imposing than the ones he faced in the Southland, but the standard he’ll have to meet is mere respectability rather than elite production.

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Big 12 M5: 11.30.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 30th, 2015


  1. Perhaps it’s because they stayed home over Thanksgiving, but it feels like Oklahoma has flown under the radar during the season’s opening stages. The Sooners have been every bit as good as expected, though maybe even better. Buddy Hield has been fantastic and they’re getting the inside play they need from Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, but I may be most impressed by Oklahoma’s defense, which has just been outstanding in the early going. On Sunday, the Sooners forced Wisconsin into its worst shooting day in nine years en route to a 65-48 win. While the Badgers aren’t what they’ve been over the last few years, everyone can agree that allowing 23.5 percent shooting against them should turn some heads. Oklahoma’s December 7 showdown with Villanova is an absolute must-watch game.
  2. Iowa State point guard Monte’ Morris continues to have increased success under Steve Prohm, as he put together another standout performance over the weekend in the Cyclones 84-73 victory over Illinois in the Emerald Coast Classic final. So far in his career, Morris has floored us with his vision and scoring ability, but he flashed a new dimension on Saturday night as he pulled down a career-high nine rebounds, all on the defensive end. While no one should ever mistake the undersized Morris for an answer to the Cyclones’ challenges inside, it has to be inspiring for Prohm to know that his floor general doesn’t mind battling it out with high-major bigs.
  3. A 2-3 start isn’t what Texas had in mind to begin the season, but while it isn’t time to panic, it isn’t unreasonable to have some concerns. The biggest trouble spots have been the Longhorns’ inability to finish (50.4% FG at the rim), generate transition offense and pull down defensive rebounds. While losses to a mediocre Washington team and a rebuilding Michigan squad won’t look good on the resume in March, it’s important to bear in mind that the Longhorns have played just one home game. Shaka Smart was thrown right into the fire by having to open the season in China with three games against competitive teams in the Bahamas shortly after, but with a much more favorable schedule coming over the next two weeks, the Longhorns need to start finding their footing. For what it’s worth, I think they will.
  4. Everyone is excited to see how quickly Cheick Diallo will make an impact for Kansas, but there’s another newcomer a little further off the radar to whom people should already start paying attention. Oklahoma State forward Chris Olivier has been a godsend for the Cowboys. The Eastern Illinois transfer is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game off the bench and has committed just two turnovers in 121 minutes of run. He’s been efficient at the rim (66.7% FG) as well as on jump shots (52.2%) and is drawing fouls all over the place. The toughest part of the Cowboys’ non-conference schedule is still ahead of them with meetings against Tulsa, Minnesota and Florida on tap for December, so it’s important to contextualize Olivier’s performance, but for the time being, he’s been a huge boost, especially with Phil Forte nursing an elbow injury.
  5. After last Tuesday’s meltdown against North Carolina, the young Kansas State Wildcats were faced with the potential of letting another late lead slip away, but they held on to beat South Carolina State 68-66 on Sunday to move to 5-1 on the year. Senior Justin Edwards led the way with 18 points, including four clutch free throws, to go with eight rebounds and six assists. As they have been all season, the Wildcats cleaned up on the glass, but sloppy play down the stretch almost turned this one into the latest in a series of awful non-conference losses for Kansas State over the years. Edwards, Wesley Iwundu and company get thrown right back into the mix with a home tilt against Coppin State sandwiched by road games at Georgia and Texas A&M over the next two weeks.
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Big 12 M5: 11.23.15 Edition

Posted by Chris Stone on November 23rd, 2015


  1. It’s been an eventful weekend for Cheick Diallo‘s eligibility struggle. After he was allowed to travel to Maui on Friday with the Jayhawks, Bill Self opened up to the media about the process the school has endured to clear the big man. So far, Kansas has hired two separate investigative firms, visited Diallo’s high school on six different occasions, and sent a letter listing 19 shortcomings with the NCAA’s investigation. As of Sunday morning, Kansas still had not heard from the governing body regarding its most recent efforts. What happens next is really anybody’s guess, but the Mali native is with the team on island and is presumably ready to go should he get cleared sometime during the tournament.
  2. After hanging tough against Utah before losing last Thursday, Texas Tech bounced back with a pair of wins to finish fifth in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Red Raiders knocked off Mississippi State and their highly touted freshman Malik Newman on Friday before defeating Tubby Smith‘s former school, Minnesota, on Sunday. For his part, Smith seems very happy with his position, telling the media, “I’m really happy we were able to come to a place like Texas Tech where they’ll celebrate you and not just tolerate you.” With a roster showing promise, the Red Raiders are poised to improve their Big 12 record this season, something that should give Texas Tech fans more reasons to celebrate Tubby’s team.
  3. There was also some recent cause for celebration in Austin, as Shaka Smart picked up his first win as the Texas head coach when the Longhorns defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 67-56, in their home opener. They were led by big man Cameron Ridley, who scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and pulled down 14 rebounds. After shedding some pounds in the offseason, Ridley is becoming a focal point of Smart’s attack and it has become clear that he intends to keep feeding him the ball going forward. Getting the senior some high percentage looks is a priority for a team that is shooting just 34.4 percent on two-point attempts through two games.
  4. Travis Hines at the Ames Tribune took an opportunity to draw some early conclusions about Iowa State, and one of the things he noticed is just how much balance with which the Cyclones are playing through 80 minutes of game action. Iowa State so far has four players with usage rates higher than 20 percent, suggesting that they’re generously spreading the love on offense. The one starter not above that mark? Senior Georges Niang. But make no mistake, the team still knows Niang is its rock. “It’s good to have the foundation,” Naz Mitrou-Long said, “and Georges has been our guy for that for the last couple years.”
  5. Despite missing three rotation players, Oklahoma State eked out a victory over Long Beach State on Sunday to finish third in the Charleston Classic. The Cowboys led by seven points with 39 seconds remaining when Jawun Evans picked up a personal foul and Chris Olivier was hit with a technical. Long Beach State would get it to within a single point as a result, but four clutch free throws by Tyree Griffin sealed the game for the Cowboys. Interestingly enough, the two teams will turn right around and play again on Friday in Stillwater, but this time Oklahoma State figures to be closer to full strength.
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Big 12 M5: 11.20.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2015


  1. Early this morning, the NCAA cleared Kansas center Cheick Diallo to fly with the team to the Maui Invitational. Diallo still hasn’t been cleared to play, which is an important distinction for obvious reasons, but at least the possibility exists for the star freshman to suit up if he’s cleared between now and next Wednesday. Whether and when that actually happens is still anyone’s guess, but this seems like a step in the right direction for both the Mali native and his team. Diallo would hardly be a cure-all for Kansas’ woes, but his athleticism and size can help defend the paint, which is something (though not the only thing) Kansas needs in order to realize its aspirations of a deep NCAA Tournament run.
  2. Sticking with the Jayhawks, Scott Phillips of was in Chicago for Kansas’ Champions Classic loss to Michigan State on Tuesday, and he has some interesting thoughts on Wayne Selden‘s polarizing tenure and ruminations on how the junior could best be utilized. If you watched the game, you saw Selden look completely out of sorts, going 3-of-12 from the floor to finish with an inefficient 12 points in his first major test since the World University Games. Selden’s inconsistency, especially against quality opponents, makes it fair to wonder if the Jayhawks have another solution to their stagnant offensive play in freshman Carlton Bragg. Bragg’s play in practice has drawn rave reviews, and he’s shown that he might be able to hold his own in his limited minutes.
  3. The first in-season edition of Luke Winn’s Power Rankings at is out, and it features Kansas as well as Oklahoma. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time discussing the Jayhawks already, so I’d like to focus on Winn’s thoughts on the Sooners for a bit. Like him, we’re intrigued by the possibility of Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard splitting duties at the point to add some variety to the Sooners’ offense. We all know about All-American candidate Buddy Hield and how the team needs to find some consistent help for Ryan Spangler, but Cousins and Woodards’ effectiveness beyond Hield’s outbursts will be crucial to keeping opposing backcourts on their toes.
  4. Oklahoma State took care of Towson in its Charleston Classic opener yesterday, but the 69-52 victory came at a cost. As Phil Forte battled for a loose ball, a Towson player landed on his left side, causing his left elbow to hyperextend. Forte spent much of the rest of the game on the bench, and although the injury doesn’t seem too serious, it appears as if the Cowboys may have to finish the weekend tournament without him. There are a couple of silver linings here, however. First, the Cowboys shouldn’t need Forte in the lineup to beat a rebuilding George Mason squad. Secondly, transfer forward Chris Olivier has stepped up to average 15.0 PPG in just 56 total minutes of action this season. That the injury happened on the first day of a tournament where the rounds are played on consecutive days makes for some bad timing, but hopefully Oklahoma State’s sharpshooter is back in action soon.
  5. Texas Tech wasn’t particularly close to the NCAA Tournament’s at-large picture before last night’s 73-63 loss to Utah in Puerto Rico, but the Red Raiders still may end up kicking themselves for dropping this one. They shot terribly from three-point range in the first half and didn’t do a good job of attacking the rim, but thanks to some fortune on jump shots and Jakob Poeltl running into foul trouble, Tubby Smith’s team was able to hang around in this game much longer than expected. Eventually, though, Poeltl righted himself and the Red Raiders were unable to keep Utah guard Lorenzo Bonam from getting into the teeth of the defense. This was ultimately a missed opportunity, but Texas Tech’s effort did nothing to dissuade us from the notion that they’ll be one of the more improved teams in the Big 12 this season.
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Big 12 Preview: Oklahoma State’s Burning Question

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 28th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC Big 12 microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will Travis Ford still coach Oklahoma State a year from now?

The year 2000 was solid, by most accounts. Y2K was overrated; civilization moved on. Al Gore was about to rock America’s world as the 43rd president. Supercompanies America Online and Time Warner, merged to form a global Internet partnership that would most definitely last for decades. Oklahoma State basketball was in pretty good shape as well. Eddie Sutton began his 11th season at his alma mater with little to complain about. The Cowboys had reached eight NCAA Tournaments in Sutton’s first 10 seasons in Stillwater, a run that had included a Final Four, two Elite Eights and four Sweet Sixteens. Sutton’s success would continue into the early 2000s, where he would guide the Cowboys to five more Tournaments, the most memorable of which would end in the 2004 Final Four. But all of this success occurred before the night of February 10, 2006 — perhaps the date at which Oklahoma State basketball started heading south.

Head coach Travis Ford is entering his eighth season as Oklahoma State's coach. (Tyler Drabek/Tulsa World)

Travis Ford is entering his eighth season as Oklahoma State’s head coach. (Tyler Drabek/Tulsa World)

That was the night when Sutton was arrested and charged for driving under the influence. With a blood alcohol level (0.22) nearly three times the legal limit in Oklahoma, Sutton drove his SUV “across four lanes of traffic, slammed into the back of another car and then crashed into a tree.” Three days later, the university named Eddie’s son, Sean Sutton, as his interim replacement. Four months after that, as the Hall of Famer sought treatment for alcohol abuse, the younger Sutton was named his father’s permanent replacement. Sean Sutton lasted less than two full years as the head man in Stillwater, with the school forcing his resignation in April 2008 after two subpar seasons that ended in the first round of the NIT. On April 17 of that same year, Oklahoma State hired a new head coach that did not include the last name Sutton: UMass’ Travis Ford.

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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2012

CIO header

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • Indiana State Raises Profile: There have been a lot of question marks surrounding Indiana State and how good the Sycamores might be this season. It is possible those questions have been answered after a couple of important overtime wins over power conference teams in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. First, they knocked off Mississippi and then after losing to San Diego State, knocked off Miami (FL) in the third-place game. Jake Odum came up big in both of those wins. After battling foot injuries all of last season that kept him from performing at the same level as his freshman year, the junior hit several free throws down the stretch in overtime against Ole Miss and then hit the game-winner against the Hurricanes. The Sycamores might have gained enough momentum out in Hawaii to throw them into the MVC conversation heading into conference play.
  • Josh Jones Hangs It Up: A few weeks ago, Creighton’s Josh Jones blacked out before a game against Nebraska. It was later determined he had an atrial flutter and needed an invasive procedure to correct it. There were questions at the time as to whether he could come back from the ailment. Unfortunately, as a result of that successful procedure, it was found that he will have to another medical procedure which will force him to finish his basketball career earlier than expected. Jones has been a fighter throughout his basketball career. It was going to be a tough road ahead for Jones anyway, but he’ll be remembered most for his smile and positive attitude. The only good thing out of this is that Creighton will be able to focus on replacing Jones on the court with the remaining players on the roster. Although Jones will be hard to replace, he will still be with the team cheering them on.
  • The Weak Link In The Conference: I would need to dig back into the record books a little bit, but it has to be a long time since a Missouri Valley Conference school headed into conference play looking for its first win against a Division I team. Missouri State enters MVC play with a 2-10 overall record, but the two wins are against two non-D-I teams: Malone and Philander Smith. The Bears even played on the road at SWAC member Alabama State and lost that game by 12 points. Paul Lusk had the luxury of inheriting a talented team over a season ago, but what has happened since? Injuries have plagued the team, with Jarmar Gulley out before the season began, but also other veteran players like Keith Pickens dealing with injuries. The other problem is that they were already down one scholarship this season because of APR scores. While many may look at Bradley’s downward spiral as a comparison the previous two seasons, this one might be even worse. Eventually, Missouri State has to win a game and I’m sure the other nine teams in the league will not want to be the school that falls to them, as it would be a massive hit to their potential at-large chances.
The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

Reader’s Take


Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (11-1) (1)–The Bluejays took care of business in their non-conference slate with their only blemish coming against Boise State. At this point, that doesn’t look like a bad loss, but yet the questions still hang out there on what might be their best win. Wins over California and Arizona State might look pretty good right now, but it could be the win against Wisconsin that might end up being the key victory for the Bluejays come march. Last season, Gregory Echenique exploded in conference play. After showing signs of dominance down low in the non-conference season, Echenique could be the key to leading Creighton to an MVC regular season championship that has eluded them for the past several years. Read the rest of this entry »
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